Brett Evans grows lettuces and other greens on several acres in Hurdle Mills and sells them in “baby lettuce” form. You can find them prewashed in clamshells in our produce department.
Set back from the road down a long driveway through trees, Red Hawk Farm is an impressive expanse of cleared land, surrounded by a deer fence. Seven or so high tunnels sit in the center, along with a barn for packing and washing, a shed covering a tractor and other machinery, and the small house where Brett lives with his wife. Perfectly flat fields spread out on one side of the tunnel houses, with land cleared for both more tunnels and more fields.
Brett has calibrated all the parts of the growing process to work together: matching the width of the field rows to the spacing of the seeds (planted with a labor-saving implement on his tractor), followed by the spacing of the irrigation system and the harvester. He tries to use efficiencies like these to keep the price of the products down, and to reduce the amount of arduous labor required. He has a harvester that is pushed down the rows, with blades on the bottom to cut the greens. (He used to use a hand-held version.) He also purchased two new washing machines and modified them as giant salad spinners.
The farm staff plant lettuce seeds every week. Plants can be hurt by weeds, pests, and weather. Heavy rain can batter the plants so badly that a third of the crop might be lost. Covering plants helps with insect pests but can cause more destruction in a rainstorm. Another option is to plant under a tunnel, and Brett has to decide if the threat of rain damage is enough to use this valuable space for a round of lettuce. To keep weeds back, Brett uses a tilling method to disrupt the weed seeds. The special tiller swirls the soil horizontally without digging too deep, which benefits the health of the soil.
Check out Red Hawk Farm online, here: http://redhawkfarmnc.com/